Black-grass and other weed seeds can be spread from field to field and farm to farm, carried on farm kit, especially on combines and balers. Thoroughly cleaning equipment in between jobs, fields and farms can have a big impact on preventing this spread of seed.

“Kit hygiene is not just good practice, it’s vital to prevent the spread of the invasive blight that is resistant black-grass,” explains BASF’s Ruth Stanley, who also farms in Leicestershire.

“We have been hearing of RRR resistant black-grass in previously unheard of places in the UK, including the far north east of Scotland, south west England and Northumberland.”

Mrs Stanley suggests that the weed could have been brought onto farms via machinery or straw. The issue has prompted BASF to launch a Keep It Clean campaign to remind farmers, contractors and agronomists about kit hygiene.

“Maintaining good black-grass control is vital given the potential damage even relatively low numbers can do to yield, as many growers found last season when low plant populations tillered heavily to produce large numbers of heads and significant seed return,” she adds.

Black-grass increases at a “phenomenal rate”, she suggests, due to its huge seed multiplication rate and the fact it can live in the soil profile for a few years.

“One black-grass plant from one seed can have 20 tillers, each of those 20 tillers have a head, and each head can have 200 seeds. So, from one seed you have 4,000 new plants.”

According to Mrs Stanley’s calculations, a crop with 100 blackgrass heads/m2 typically results in a 13 per cent yield loss which at a grain price of £120/t equates to a loss of £156/ha on a 10t/ha crop.

Losses ramp up at higher populations, with 500 black-grass heads/m2 causing a 63 per cent yield loss, worth an estimated £756/ha.

“The only way we’ll stop these weeds is to stop the seeds. One way to help is to keep your weed problems contained, rather than spreading them around the farm and from field to field.”

One of the ways in which seed can be transported to different areas of the farm is on machinery.

“Combines and balers are the worst culprits for this, so BASF are working with contractors, growers and manufacturers to give hands-on advice on best practice machinery hygiene and show how this can prevent the buildup of weed seeds on farm,” she explains.

Her ten top tips are:

1 Make use of the machine’s cleaning functions

2 Remove large build ups of debris by hand

3 Open all panels on the machine

4 Use a leaf blower to remove finer debris and get to places the hand can’t reach

5 Check around the wheel axles for seed and chaff build up

6 Open the stone trap and clean inside

7 Don’t forget the header

8 Clean kit either in gateways or in the farmyard

9 Burn rogued blackgrass plants as soon as they are harvested

10 Even if you’re busy, take the time and get your cleaning done!

BASF is also incentivising farmers to help the UK better understand the national weed situation in the UK and is encouraging them to log their farm weed status on their farms. The results will be shared later in the season.